Crystal, the kids, and I vacationed in northern Michigan. On our second full day, we drove up to Old Mission Peninsula in Traverse City. Beautiful, beautiful country.
On our drive, we found a quaint general store that featured clerks in black bowler hats, loud Roaring Twenties music, and homemade pastries. The kids and I kicked around the store, looking at the kitschy collection of antiques and souvenirs featured alongside candy bars, sodas, and craft beers. Crystal bought two freshly made sour cream doughnuts and a piece of spicy cherry beef jerky to share.
The fighting started soon. So did the crying.
“Stop crying!” I’m sure I’ve said this dozens, if not hundreds of times. I say it because, honestly, crying never fixes anything.
I’m sure I’ve said that a few times too.
We spent the rest of the morning and a good piece of the afternoon in lovely Traverse City, but a cloud hung over the rest of our time together. We were all easily irritated, easily angered, completely distracted.
We made it back to our condo, retreating to different corners to decompress. After a tense dinner, we turned on the TV. We found that great Disney movie The Kid. If you don’t remember, it’s a redemption story where a Scrooge-like Bruce Willis (named Russ) is visited by himself as an 8-year-old boy (Rusty).
Near the end of the movie (spoiler alert), Big Russ gets to travel back through time to help his 8-year-old self with a particularly brutal moment. Russ thinks he’s getting a chance to win a fight he lost in childhood. He wants to toughen his younger self up.
Little Rusty does win the fight, but discovers something truly tragic ahead: his mom is dying. When the boy’s father delivers the bad news, that adorable little kid cries. His dad, who doesn’t know how to deal with the pain of it himself, shakes him and yells at him.
At that moment, I felt a twinge of guilt. When my child cries about something I think is inconsequential, I get frustrated and lash out. I believe the command to “Stop!” Is all that’s needed to solve the problem.
What if I took a minute to see the problem from my child’s point of view? What if I could use my imagination for a second and do my best to help?
I looked around at my kids and said, “I’m sorry.”
They laughed it off, but really.